OXNARD, Calif. — These people began lining up in the parking lot at 2 a.m. to watch their team practice. More than 60 cops, two U.S. Navy-trained “service” dogs as well as an untold number of plain-clothes security were here to watch them as they watched.To the die-hards that comprise the Raider Nation, this is no reason to joke, or mock.And in their arrival I have found the brightest bright spot in the 2014 Dallas Cowboys training camp, brought to you by TMZ.Cowboy Nation should be confident of their team’s offense, which looks like it will be a top-five unit. This will be a reality, provided the quarterback’s back does not break in half again.After that, in an effort to find another positive in the month where superlatives flow, Cowboy Nation should take pride in the fact they are not Raider Nation.Standing here behind the waist-high, chain-link fence that is approximately 8 yards from the field of play, it does hit you — somebody always has it worse. This was the same spot a Raiders fan used his souvenir helmet to pop Cowboys cornerback B.W. Webb during a fight on Tuesday.Cowboys coach Jason Garrett made a point to compliment the atmosphere of the two-team practices, saying the intensity reminded him of a high school basketball game.This was an angry, bordering on uncomfortable spot with fans that felt like they were itching for a fight as much as the players. When there was the “hope” of one fight on Wednesday during the scrimmage, several fans screamed, “Yeah! Yeah! C’mon! C’mon!”This is not a holier-than-thou comment on the Raiders’ loyal fans here but it is a direct shot at the team they so slavishly support. Perhaps the reason these fans are so angry is for no other reason than they know their team.This clichéd line of “Somewhere, somebody has it worse” is supposed to provide perspective and support for those in a dire way, and when it comes to Cowboy Nation the line fits. This generation of Cowboys fans has not enjoyed the success the previous generations of fans have enjoyed, but they can at least brag — ‘We ain’t the Raiders.’Wednesday’s practice brought to mind the following question: Would you rather be a member of Cowboy Nation, which supports a team that since 2000 boasts a whopping five winning seasons and a 1-4 playoff record? Or, would you rather be a member of Raider Nation, which since 2000 has a 4-3 playoff record, three winning seasons and one Super Bowl appearance?There is no correct answer. It’s a choice between having a tooth extracted, with a punch to the face, or crotch, as the painkiller. Since the turn of the century, two of the proudest and most distinguished franchises in the NFL during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s have been surpassed by so many of the teams they formerly dominated. They combine now to be distinguished by their history, and their cool uniforms, which rival gangs here in Oxnard wear as a means of distinction.If you had to join one of these two team’s “nations,” the safer pick is the Cowboys.The Raiders play in easily the worst stadium in the NFL, and once again are flirting with the possibility of moving. The San Antonio Raiders is being discussed as a possibility, but that’s not happening. As frustrating as it is to be a member of Cowboy Nation, the team will never leave DFW.Since reaching the Super Bowl in the 2002 season, the Raiders have not had a winning season, much less sniffed a playoff game. They have four winning records in the past 20 years.It is easy to feel for former Texas A&M and L.D. Bell grad Dennis Allen as he tries to return the Raiders to their “Commitment to Excellence.” The team is 8-24 in his two seasons, and by the looks of his roster, he should be Coach of the Year if the Raiders are .500 this season.It is easy to feel for the fans of both the Cowboys and the Raiders — a stable of loyal suckers to the end, hoping against hope that just maybe in a league where 4-12 often flips to 12-4, it will happen for them.Being a Cowboys fan is not easy these days. The team merely flirts with playoff, not Super Bowl, appearances. And even then there is no payoff.But if you are looking for perspective, somebody has it worse.They’re called Raiders fans.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @macengelprof